"He's looking at me, isn't he?" I stealthily hid behind a telephone pole to shield myself. "Isn't he?" I prompted.

"Not anymore."

I peeked out and glanced at my savior: an almost black-haired boy with liquid brown eyes that sometimes had bits of green in the top right corners. Not like I would know from hours of staring into them or anything weird like that. He was just a little taller than me—but his personality was more than enough to put him around seven feet tall. Maybe nine.

At the moment, he was standing in the sunlight, his pale skin glinting and the freckles on his crossed arms popping up, and he was glaring at the guy who had the nerve to grab my ass in the cotton candy line.

He was my protector from creeps like that, but I wouldn't hold it past him to turn into one of those guys some day, trying to make a pass at me. Lord knows he's already tried. Above all that secret mess that I wasn't supposed to know about, he was my best friend.

And nothing more. Keep telling yourself that, Georgia. Maybe one day Jack will turn into Prince Charming.

But then again, frogs must be kissed to turn into princes. Right?

Kissing Jack wouldn't be so bad, though. Those plush pink lips would be so soft…those eyes would be even more soul-searching up close…bad!

I shook myself out of my drooling daydream and stole a glance at Mr. Bad Boy himself. He was already looking at me, and as a result, my face heated up instantly.

"The sun's really…bright today," I covered feebly, cringing internally at my stupidity.

"Oh, yeah, through all these clouds," he teased and jabbed me with a calloused finger. Jack's grin was contagious. So loving and just…he seemed happy to be with me.

I wanted so badly to grab him and wrap him up in a big bear hug, but I knew that it wasn't meant to be in the slightest. His latest and most slutty girlfriend yet was proof that he was wrong for me.

Jack never talked about his "girlfriends" with me. I think, deep inside, he knew that it grated me to hear about her giving him head under the stage during fourth period, or whatever the hell it was that they were doing down there. Not like I cared. We were friends, and nothing more.

"Hey, Jack!"

Speak of the devil.

Her fingers trailed up his arm and a little ways into his sleeve as she swooped in for the kill, draping a syphilis-infested arm around him and pulling him away from me in one motion. I turned away before they started making out in front of God and all those country folk, but I swore I saw Jack look at me over his shoulder pleadingly, as if that were enough to say, 'I'm sorry'.

She used to be my friend.

I introduced them. Not to hook them up, no, it was all reluctance—common courtesy. After that, she sucked up his attentions like a sponge, and then that same day, invited him to her empty house. And he went.

My disgust was all I could feel for him, that is, until I checked my phone and found it flashing with a message from him. All was forgiven. Why would I feel any different? He was just my friend, anyways.

"No offense to Jack or anything, but I wouldn't touch that shit with a ten-foot pole," someone muttered behind me.

Trying not to be a crazy stalker, I pretended to scan the skyline for fireworks and turned around to face the person who'd spoken before. It was just some ex of Jack's girl with his buddies, holding cotton candy.

"Dude, you already did! Everyone's hit Caroline," the redhead in the circle laughed and slapped his friend on the back, obviously proud have gotten laid at least once.

The sun was setting and the clouds had cleared away by then, laying a pink-purple haze over the crowd and the red-striped tents filled with water games and ice cream. Some girls clung to their princes in the darkening field with tenderness that made me shiver. No jacket without a prince. I sighed. Behind me, I heard a hiss. "Georgia!"

I whipped around, squinting into the grove of thick pine trees. "What?"

"Come on, we have to go," Jack's voice called out.

"Kay," I murmured with hopes that Caroline had already gone off with her slut of a cousin for the summer.

But as I approached the car, I knew that she was inside, taking up my rightful spot of shotgun. Their silhouettes became one. What a joy to ride with gonorrhea and syphilis all the way to their sex hovel and sit around smelling sweaty fish for an hour, I thought and turned away from the car. It took me moments to disappear into the shadows, but I knew they'd never notice I left.

"Hey, what's goin' on, babe?" A figure was leaning against a rusty old truck in the dark, and in my haste to get away, I'd run right into him.

"Sorry," I mumbled.

"Where you goin', sweetie?" His voice was thick and sugary, and the whole place reeked of beer.

My heart rate picked up. I kept walking, hearing his footfalls in the same path I'd weaved through cars, and took off into a sprint, desperately trying not to bring up the rape rate in our town. With my blood pumping like wildfire through a drought-suffering forest, I raced to a familiar part of town. The small store was the only place I could think to go to that wasn't ridden with shady people tonight, but one wrong turn put me on the outskirts of the carnival and far enough away that no one, especially Jack, would hear my screams.

I only remembered the crying. The rest: me struggling out of the unbreakable grip my captor had, was just a dim blur. We were in some barn. Far away, I assumed. I tried to sleep, because the shackle around my ankle normally meant for horses wouldn't come off.

The man's voice echoed in the room, at the entrance, that broke me from a troubled sleep and put me on edge. Were there others? "I've got this chick that barely even struggles in there now." He laughed. "I put her in a shackle thing. Don't think there's a key or anything."

The frozen layers of my heart fell and cracked. They were planning on leaving me here to die? If I could just slow down my heartbeat, maybe they'd get the picture that I was dead and take me to some morgue. I shuddered. What kind of sick world…

Another voice, slightly younger, but strangely familiar, rang out eagerly. "You got some beer?" Silence, and then clinking glasses. "Which stall is she in?"

Footsteps, and the door creaked open, spiking the beat of my heart. Damn. I'll never die at this rate. A gasp sounded and a bottle shattered into my back. "Georgia?"

That voice…I couldn't look up to see his face, but at once I knew.

"Jack?" I croaked thickly.

"Oh, God! Georgia!" His hands scrambled to grasp my bare waist roughly, but the shackle kept me from moving.

"You…were going to rape me, too, Jack?" My words came out in a whisper, filled with ice and hurt and emptiness. I had no strength left to think. I was numb.

"I didn't know it was you!" he plead. "Uh, I mean, I wouldn't rape anyone!"

"Yeah," the guy with the unbroken bottle scoffed. "That's why you paid us $20 to take your girlfriend home."

I couldn't breathe. My lungs collapsed against my thudding heart unwillingly at this revelation. "Take me home!" I spluttered when I caught my breath.

"Dude…" Jack spoke, not to me.

My kidnapper snickered. "How much do you want her for?"

The blood drained from my face. Jack would have to buy me?

"Get the fuck out of here or I'll break your jaw!" Jack threatened, his voice shaky with rage.

Why would Jack be here? Does he get a sick kick out of raping innocent girls in the dark? Who is he?

We were in the car, and I watched the landscape pass as we rolled over miles of road back towards town. I couldn't really see much past the dense darkness and the wetness that pricked my eyelashes, anyways, so I tried to calm myself with deep breaths.

"Who are you?" I asked quietly, releasing my last breath.

"Georgia, it's not what you think."

There was silence in the old car. I didn't respond because I'd already made up my mind.

"I'd…never been there before, Georgie, I swear," he plead.

A pause.

"You gotta believe me. I thought I…oh, God, this is hard to explain." I heard him suck in a breath through his lips, probably stained with beer and Caroline's tacky lipstick. "When you didn't come to the car, Caroline wanted to leave without you, but I got out to find you."

I sighed. What room was there to believe him?

"She grabbed me and yanked me back towards her, yelling about how she was sick of you taking me away from her and other stupid shit like that, so I told her that I didn't want to be with her anymore. She pouted in the car and demanded I take her home, but I still needed to find you. When I saw that guy pulling you into his truck, I got pissed.

Why? I don't know. Just…seeing you with someone else made my blood boil. And Caroline was nothing to me anymore, after what she'd said about you, so I went to the place I'd heard along the grapevine: a brothel on the outskirts of town. I thought they were willing girls."

I narrowed my eyes angrily. There was nothing willing about it.

"But I saw that guy at the front. The one you'd left with. I was confused. Did he drop you off at home or something?" He seemed to be channeling actual thoughts, because his voice was faraway. "I gave him the money, but I was still suspicious. The beer…was to numb the pain of not knowing…where you were," he whispered, his voice cracking.

"I can't believe he chained you up like a fucking dog!" Jack slammed his fist against the steering wheel and the car jerked over the yellow line.

"Jack?" I mumbled.


"Are we going to my house?" He'd taken a wrong turn at the last stop sign.

"No, Georgie, you have to go to the hospital," he said softly.

"NO!" I screamed and reached for the door handle.

He pulled over, but kept the door locked. "You really have to. You were raped."

The tears came down in a waterfall of shame as reality sunk in. "I'm dirty now," I sobbed. Jack's arm fell around me softly, and I grabbed onto it for life, praying that at least I wouldn't have an STD.

"Georgia?" Jack murmured into my hair. "You will never be dirty to me. You are pure beauty in every way."

The sobs racked through my body with vehemence.

"I will always be here for you," he told me.

I shook my head, unable to talk.

"Do you know why?"

"Why?" I choked out.

"Because I love you."